The Wooden Tongue Speaks is a collection of short stories and poetry, concerning the lives of various characters in post-communist Romania. Mainly set in Brăila, these tales are fragments into the day to day reality of a nation attempting to shake off the yoke of the Ceauşescu reign, a regime that was characterized by an increasingly brutal and repressive apparatus and, by some accounts, the most rigidly Stalinist regime in the Soviet bloc. It was also marked by a pervasive cult of personality, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union, isolating it from both East and West. This lead, eventually, to Ceausescu’s government being overthrown in the December 1989 revolution, after which he and his wife faced a hastily organised televised trial which ended with their execution.
So, what would make one feel nostalgic for those days? This is one of the questions raised in this book. In a nation that is haemorrhaging out it’s youth, as they head for the bright lights and bling culture of the west. The old & infirm are left behind without the support of family, and only past memories for sustenance, and yet with this freedom also comes opportunity, with all the positive and negative connotations in its wake. As an exile from Romania, Bogdan Tiganov, uses his own experiences to create these fragments of individual life, allowing us a glimpse into the day to day reality of a nation & it’s people.
In the introduction to this book the author states that:
“The lives of Romanians in post-communist Romania creates an endless pool of interesting characters and situations and I am determined to throw light on situations that are generally not covered by the media, without being overtly political. The wild democracy of Romania also allows for some absurd moments to occur that are humorous and sad at the same time”.
He does this through tales such as A personal history of a city called Brăila, in which he states that the walls of his home were so thin, you couldn’t even whisper a joke about Ceauşescu, or An Interview, in which an individual is being sold a job as an au pair. Then there is Lost and Found, the tale of a lonely exiled Romanian returning home to find a wife. These are some of the tales in this collection that highlight the reality of a modern Romania with all its complexities, in the process taking us the reader on a guided tour of his birth place & revealing how life is lived in a post communist world.
Apart from the tales, there is also a series of poems that, according to the author, add another dimension to his tales and, having read them I agree with him. They add a more direct, instinctual & in some cases visceral edge, complimenting the stories in this collection. Poetry such as;
I am not a monkey
But a piece of my
A piece of heart
I am not a machine
But a piece of my
A piece of courage
Spiritual piece, yes
Death comes quickly and unexpectedly
And when it comes it comes
Leaving memories and
Journalists to write their stories
But its the little pieces that live on
Not the monkeys or machines.
Bogdan Tiganov was born in Braila, Romania, 1981. There he attended the Nicolai Balcescu School of Music at the age of seven, learning to play piano as well as composing. At the age of 11 he was exiled with his family to London, UK, where he wrote and illustrated his first book at the age of just 14. His writing credits include short stories and poems that have appeared in magazines and periodicals worldwide, such as Exiled Ink!, Parmentier, Planet, Delivered, Krax and Bright Journals.
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